Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reading Through Theology of the OT: by Walter Brueggemann #14

BrueggemannThis post continues my reading through Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy, by Walter Brueggemann. Chapters 21-22 continue the section of the theology on Israel's Embodied Testimony, showing how the kingship and prophetic office mediated God’s presence to Israel. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

Chapter 21, The King as Mediator, discusses how God's presence and rule was mediated through the human king of Israel. The constant testimony of the OT is that the real king of Israel is YHWH, but the human king was to represent Him, as a "son," under the authority of the Torah, with the responsibility to administer justice, righteousness and care to benefit all the people, especially the needy. This immediately creates some tension in the text because, from the beginning, the kings acted, as Samuel predicted they would, in a selfish oppressive way. God promises an eternal kingdom to David, yet David himself along with his successors act in a way that makes this seemingly impossible. This ends in exile and the end of the Davidic line ruling in Jerusalem. Yet, despite the prophet's condemnation of the kings, they hold out hope for the fulfillment of God's promises about a Davidic Messiah who will restore the nation and kingship and rule as God intended, extending the blessings of covenant to all the world. At the end of the OT the promise is still open.

Without denying the “warts” of David, Solomon, and their ilk, kingship in Israel emerged, in Jerusalem interpretation, as a great gift from God. The king’s intimacy and congruity with Yahweh indicate that the actual performance of Yahweh’s way in the world is a human possibility. Thus, despite great ambiguity and compromise, it is expected and celebrated that the king will bring the world right for Israel. 611

The prophet equates judging the cause of the poor and needy with “knowing” Yahweh. Note well these lines do not say that judging the poor and needy is the cause and knowing Yahweh the consequence; nor, conversely, that judging the poor and needy is the consequence and knowing Yahweh the cause. Rather, the two are equated. Judging the cause of the poor and needy is the substance of knowledge of Yahweh (cf. Hos 6:6). And so, when the king engages in these practices in the administration of public power, knowledge of Yahweh is indeed mediated in the community of Israel. Jeremiah 22:15-16, Psalm 72, Isaiah 9.2-7, 613

The dynastic promise, rooted in 2 Samuel 7 and explicated in Psalm 89, was turned to the future, so that Israel expected the good, faithful, effective king to come, even though all present and known incumbents had failed. Out of concrete political practice arose an expectation of the coming of messiah: a historical agent to be anointed, commissioned, and empowered out of the Davidic house to do the Davidic thing in time to come, to establish Yahweh’s justice and righteousness in the earth. 616

Chapter 22, The Prophet as Mediator, deals with the very important phenomenon of prophecy, direct revelation from God to a human being, as a means of revelation of YHWH. These prophets claimed to have been in God's presence and received a message from God which (though it may have been rejected at the time) was accepted as authoritative, written down, and placed into the canon of the Hebrew scriptures. The prophet drew His authority from an experience of being in the "Divine Council," in which He received the "word of the LORD" which was to be directed to the nation. This was validated through predictions coming true and adherence to previous prophecies in the tradition of Moses. The prophets brought YHWH's perspective to the nation. They attacked the pride and idolatry of the monarchy in "lawsuit" prophecies of judgment and dealt with the despair of defeat and exile in prophecies of repentance and promise. They called the nation, from the throne room of God, to live ethically with YHWH as the center of life and to trust and hope in His promises to set all creation right at "the end of days."

Prophecy as a mode of mediation begins in the inexplicable appearance of individual persons who claim to speak Yahweh’s revelatory word, and who are accepted by some as being indeed carriers of such a revelatory word. Prophecy culminates as this cadre of individual persons and their remembered, transmitted words (and actions) are stylized into a fixed body of literature and achieve canonical status. 622

Each such prophet does what Moses did, that is, enables Israel in a particular time and place to be fully and intentionally the covenant people of Yahweh. This means, positively, that Israel must reckon with Yahweh’s sovereign intention for its life. It requires, negatively, that Israel must forgo and repent of all of its proximate loyalties, which in the end are idolatrous and which will only lead to death. 635

The prophets are not fortune-tellers or predictors, working with esoteric means or data. They are, rather, those who attend to Yahweh’s resolve, which will not be defeated, even by the “end of history” that comes with failed ethics. Eschatology is simply Yahweh’s capacity to move in and through and beyond the end of history, to reinitiate the life-giving processes of history. 646

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